Pro-immigration groups and community members gather to promote compromise

XXX (Thomas Hawthorne/DD) (Pictured is Representative Ruben Gallego)
Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, spoke at the immigration-reform rally Monday. He said positive reform can fix a great social injustice. (Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

Volunteers and members for Organizing for Action-AZ gathered at Steele Indian School Park Monday night with signs that detailed their hopes for immigration reform.

Just one of a number of events held across the state on behalf of immigration reform Monday, the press rally was aimed at urging U.S. Congressmen and Senators from Arizona to pursue immigration reform.

The rally drew several pro-immigration groups and prominent members of the community, including Rev. Liana Rowe of Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. Rowe, who has served on the board of directors for Somos America since 2011, said she feels a deep connection to the immigration debate, as she feels it is an issue of taking care of her neighbors.

“There is a really strong tendency to conflate drug and terror and human trafficking issues with immigration, but the young man crossing the border in a flannel shirt carrying two jugs of water is coming so that he can send money home to his family,” Rowe said.

“He’s just trying to live and the rhetoric paints that man like he’s carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and that he’s coming to harm the United States in some way shape or form,” she said.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said creating a pathway for citizenship reaps economic benefits that would be felt across the state and across the country.

“This is not a jobs issue in the sense that this will not take away jobs,” said Gallego. “There has been enough studies done to point to the positive effect that the immigrant community has on the community.”

Gallego is a former Marine and son of two immigrants, one from Columbia and the other from Mexico.

Aside from the economic outlook, Gallego said immigration reform will allow the U.S. to “fix a true social injustice where we have let 11 million people live in the shadows to be preyed on by criminals and exploited by just about everybody.”

Not all in attendance were in favor of immigration reform. Anna Gaines of American Citizens United was at the rally, carrying a sign that read “McCain McCrazy: Tell Him No Amnesty.”

Gaines, who legally emigrated from Mexico during the Vietnam War, said that as a teacher, she has witnessed the financial toll the government has taken by supporting illegal immigrants.

She also expressed frustration at her party’s recent shift in tone towards immigration as more and more Republican leaders express an open mind to the idea of reform.

“Right now, the Republicans want to be more popular and win elections and because of that they’re going to lose a lot of us conservative people,” Gaines said.

Most of those who spoke at the rally expressed gratitude toward U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake for taking charge on the issue.

Both McCain and Flake are a part of what is being called the “Gang of Eight,” a group of eight Senators currently working to draft legislation on immigration reform. The group visited the Arizona-Mexico border last week.

Whatever legislation the Senate drafts, it will still require negotiations with the U.S. House of Representatives, said Todd Landfried of Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform.

“Compromise is painful,” he said, adding that not everyone will get what they want.

Despite the pains each side will face, Gallego summed up the rally’s mission by urging senators and representatives to make the issue a priority.

“Please, get this done,” he said. “And get this done as soon as possible.”

Correction: April 2, 2013

A previous version of this article said Rev. Liana Rowe had served on the board of directors for Somos America since 2006.

Contact the reporter at linnea.bennett@asu.edu